13 Key Elements of Successful YouTube Videos

YouTube is great for marketing, a fact backed by a ton of mind-blowing usage stats.

Here are a few that really stand out:

  • 500 hours video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.
  • YouTube is the second most popular social networking site, with over 2 billion monthly users. It is a third of internet!
  • Viewers are 4x more likely using YouTube rather than another platform to discover information about a brand, product or service – meaning there’s a ready audience for your content.
  • Millennials also spend a lot of time on YouTube. Among millennials, YouTube reaches 18-34 year olds more than any TV network.

How to make the most of the YouTube opportunity?

It starts with a great video. Check out these 13 key elements of a successful YouTube video.

1. Brand introduction pictures

The importance of branding in marketing can never be overstated. Branding helps build loyalty.

Including branded intro footage helps your loyal viewers recognize your work immediately so they stick with you and keep watching.

Plus, such branding is important to make sure your viewers remember the video, which is especially handy when they need to refer someone to it.

While they may forget the actual content and video name, remembering your branded footage will help drive viewers to your channel.

2. A captivating introduction

Did you know about 20% people will leave after the first 10 seconds of your YouTube video?

What’s even worse is that they might give you a boost.

So what are you doing?

It’s all in the intro.

After including your trademark intro sequence, convince the viewer to keep watching. Clearly explain what they are about to see and how it benefits them.

If you’re showing them how to fix a problem, personalize it so they feel you’ve been affected as well. This builds trust and a sense that the solution is valid.

3. Keep titles and opening credits short

As mentioned above, our attention span is incredibly short. Nothing is worse than a long start to a video that sparks lost interest.

Worse, that long aperture will discourage over-viewing. Who wants to watch the same long opening over and over again?

More than half of YouTube viewers watch the entire video when it’s less than a minute long.

Instead, try to get an opening of around 5 seconds that is punchy and direct.

4. Incorporate trending topics into your video content

Using trending topics is a proven method for successful link building and can be applied to your video content as well.

Think seasonal, newsworthy, local, unique, movies, games, music, or even surprising, etc. These are all great trending topics to incorporate into your videos.

You do not know where to start ? To give YouTube Trending (country specific) or Popular on YouTube (worldwide) a try.

google trends and even Twitter Trends are also great resources for discovering trending topics to link to your video content.

5. Background music

Should you include background music? After all, people are only interested in what you say.

However, thanks to technology, we are bored. Fast.

There’s nothing more boring than a boring YouTube video.

Including background music not only grabs attention instantly, but sets the mood for the viewing session, establishing an emotional connection.

Moreover, the music dictates the pace of the video, while a great soundtrack just gives viewers one more reason to share the video.

However, be careful of two things:

  • Let the music evoke the desired emotions and aura.
  • That you are legally allowed to use the music from your video.

6. Be clearly audible

Unfortunately, a good intro and nice background music can’t help if you’re not clearly audible.

Remember that the ultimate goal is for your audience to understand what you are putting forward. If your video is just a pictorial illustration, loud background music is enough.

On the other hand, if your video includes a spoken presentation, make sure you can be heard above the background music.

7. Brevity

Well, maybe not this short. Still, this video has over 11 million views.

With YouTube allowing users to search for videos based on duration, among other filters, we clearly cannot ignore the importance of video duration on YouTube.

8. Personalized experiences

Tap into micro-moments. These are the times when people need to know, go, do, or buy something and turn to the nearest device to help them get there.

Use data to give people what they want, when they want it.

This can take several forms. Consider linking events on television or excitement around great moments in pop culture, politics, sports, technology, etc.

Another option is to leverage the data to deliver personalized video content.

Google Trends, May 2021

To get started with this process:

  • Visit Google Trends to help validate the growing demand or topic.
  • Find out what people are looking for and customize your videos to fit into existing conversations. A keyword research tool can help you target the right keyword targets.
  • Then this free chrome plugin from vidIQ will provide you with valuable competitive data for current ads going viral, including tags, social shares, average view time, speed, and more.
  • Finally, once the video is created, use YouTube Analytics to answer “who is actually watching” and “what are they really interested in”.

9. A call to action

As mentioned earlier, YouTube viewers are running out of time. After all, there is too much content to see in one day. They have jobs and lives (presumably).

Therefore, you need to be creative in how you include your call to action, as your audience will more and more disappear over the course of your video.

Engagement drops dramatically between two and three minutes. This means that you shouldn’t place your CTA at the end, and this is especially true for longer videos.

Instead, consider clickable annotations within the first few seconds of the video.

Bonus Tip: If you want to grow your YouTube subscriber base, add the following parameter to your URL: ?sub_confirmation=1.

Here is an example: https://www.youtube.com/user/jonleeclark?sub_confirmation=1. You will get a nice little popup asking the user to subscribe.

Here is an example of adding the following parameter to your URL.Screenshot taken by author, May 2021

10: Add end screens to promote your videos, channel or website

While end screens can only be added to the last 20 seconds of a video, these useful graphics can be used to link to anything from a website URL, YouTube channel, video playlist (like another video in a series), or invite a watcher to subscribe.

When creating a video, be sure to leave room at the end of the video to add your end screen.

Ahrefs video end card.How to Learn SEO Quickly and Effectively, Ahrefs, May 2021

11. Create video thumbnails that YouTube users want to click

Of all the items on this list, thumbnails have the most potential to make or break your success on YouTube.

And the reason is simple.

Suggested videos tend to be the biggest source of organic traffic on YouTube. In a sense, YouTube acts as an “endorser” of your content by suggesting it as something a watcher might like as well.

Thumbnails that generate clicks are more likely to feed the algorithm, which leads to more clicks, etc.

Here are three simple best practices to keep in mind:

Do not mislead the user.

Make sure the thumbnail is relevant and matches the title of the video. If not, you may experience lower watch time, which will negatively impact the algorithm – the opposite of what we want.

Create thumbnails for small screens.

YouTube recommends 1280×720; however, most video consumption occurs on a smaller screen.

Make sure your image will always stand out by playing with color saturation, cropping to a smaller area, or playing with the edges of the image.

Bonus Tip: Can’t choose a thumbnail? Consider testing a handful of thumbnail options with a simple Adwords test. A small investment of $10-20 per day will give you insight into which thumbnail generates the highest VTR (view rate).

Keep a consistent style, look and feel.

I realize this is open ended, but some consistency considerations include logo, common colors, shapes, consistent face, font, etc.

Over time, this consistency will increase video recognition on hover; and, if they like your content, they will be more likely to click. The people from keywordtool.io do it well.

Consistent Youtube branding.How to Find YouTube Trends (Tips to Grow Your Channel), Keyword Tool, May 2021

12: Create a “guest space” for other YouTubers

Perhaps the most common example of a “guest slot” is an interview.

But however you structure it, collaborating with creators who already have an audience is a great way to build your own, as it provides exposure to an audience that might otherwise never hear of. you.

Look for creators who are already in your niche or serve an audience with similar interests. Social Blade is a tool that can help you find channels with similar demographics and channel size.

Be sure to present your guest in a positive and prominent light so they are more likely to cross-promote the video.

13. Give the audience a chance to participate

It might seem strange if you’re not live streaming, but soliciting your audience to participate has its benefits.

For example, asking your viewers questions directly gives you the ability to generate and provide responses to comments, which further feeds the engagement algorithm.

Viewer feedback can also provide ideas for future content and opportunities to build content around responses through “fan clips” or idea shoutouts.

The path to follow

To improve performance on YouTube, drive more traffic to your site, and more revenue for your business, apply these best practices to your video creation process.

These tried-and-true YouTube video assets are sure to contribute to your own video marketing success!

More resources:


Feature image: Alina Rosanova/Shutterstock

All screenshots taken by author, May 2021

Shirley K. Rosa